I figure now is as good a time as any to stop talking about the soon to rotate Standard format and to start talking about the things that threaten to change its face. At this point in time we don’t have any Boros Reckoner or Burning Tree Emissary style role-players, but there are some interesting cards that I could see shaking things up. Let’s just get right down into it.
Advent of the Wurm
This card is in a weird spot. It has some advantages over Restoration Angel in immunity to Mizzium Mortars and Ultimate Price, but it’s harder to cast and is completely embarrassed by Azorius Charm. Not to mention that Resto’s 187 is worth considerably more than +2/+1 and losing flying.
I’m inclined to believe that the weakness to Azorius Charm alone will keep this card relatively unplayed in terms of its abstract power level, but it seems quite powerful against decks that don’t have such an effect. I recently ran into a GW deck intent on abusing Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice that will no doubt jump at the change to produce five toughness tokens for a low rate, and such a deck is extremely good at winning creature mirrors. Curving Advent of the Wurm into Wolfir Silverheart is nothing to scoff at.
All in all I’d say that this is the type of card that very clearly gets some players very excited and it delivers a large body at an efficient rate. Expect it to be played. Don’t expect it to be dominant.
When I first saw Ral Zarek I was very excited, but my excitement has depreciated the more thought that I’ve given to the card. Four mana is a considerably higher investment now than it was when Ajani Vengeant was all the rage in Standard.
It’s generally good practice to ignore the ultimate of a Planeswalker when evaluating its power level. The text could literally read “take five additional turns and at the end of the fifth you win the game” and it wouldn’t make much difference. The question that has been on my mind since I saw Ral spoiled was how to make the +1 ability matter.
For the most part giving a Boros Reckoner pseudo-vigilance is the best use that I can think of, as it also removes a blocker if attacking is your game plan. That said, It seems that a Boros Reckoner deck is going to have better options at four. Hellrider, Restoration Angel, Ghor-Clan Rampager… Pretty steep competition.
Alternatively, using Ral to untap a Guilded Lotus might be a thing. It’s not the type of territory that I would intend to explore first, but losing to such a deck in the immediate future wouldn’t be the most surprising thing that could happen.
The -2 ability is very clearly strong, and the ability to just use Ral as two Searing Spears is nothing to scoff at. In that respect Ral has some upside over Ajani Vengeant, but its +1 is presumably just worse.
I’m excited about this card, but not for a specific type of deck at this point. I fully expect it to make an impact on Standard at some point. Four mana Planeswalkers have a way of doing that.
If we’re talking about split cards that have been spoiled thus far then Beck//Call is probably going to be the only one worth discussing. It has been speculated that this card will make a difference in Legacy and possibly make Elves a thing in Modern. I feel that these calls underestimate the difference between one/two mana and one/two colors. Wasteland is a thing. Spell Pierce is a thing. Spell Snare is a thing. Tacking a blue mana onto Glimpse of Nature is a recipe for awkward.
There is potential for Beck to make a splash in Standard with a little assistance from Elvish Archdruid, but one has to ask how much better relying on making a lot of mana from a 2/2 is than just committing to Prime Speaker Zegana.
As a more general note with the new split mechanic it’s pretty clear that any split card where one side is playable as a lone card will be good. That was already obviously true of the old split cards. The new split cards, alternatively, are a lot better when both sides are narrow, as hitting on both sides is just going to be insane. Of course, if we see more things that are like Wear//Tear where the card is narrow and applies to very different situations we’re probably better off sticking with real cards. It is likely that if you would want Wear//Tear you would rather have Ancient Grudge or Ray of Revelation, as it’s unlikely for both Artifacts and Enchantments to be the cards that matter in the same matchup.
Patrick Chapin had some really good insights on this card and I’m pretty convinced that there are multiple types of decks that benefit from having a land like this. As Patrick points out, you don’t even need to be trying to win the game with Maze’s End to play it- just using it to tutor a few Gates in a three or four color deck seems more than worth it if you can afford a tempo hit.
Personally I see this as an automatic inclusion in those Fog-style Urban Evolution decks. Those decks do some pretty cool things but I really can’t see myself ever willingly putting Enter the Infinite into my deck. Of course, Nephalia Drownyard and Ghost Quarter will make actually winning with Maze’s End tricky, but nobody said it had to be your only win condition. If I still attended FNMs I would absolutely be bringing a deck that can only win with Maze’s End though.
Alternatively, the tempo loss from playing a deck with a healthy amount of gates with Ravnica lands and M10 lands might prove too hard on a three color deck. Perhaps a two-color control deck that plays more basics and a few gates to search up to have a huge mana advantage late game. Blue White is the pair mostly likely to attempt this strategy seeing as Sphinx’s Revelation is the best spell in Standard for such slow decks. At any rate I fully expect to see some Maze’s Ends on the other side of the table, if not in my own decks. Card advantage generate from lands will ever be a real thing.
We’re not exactly super-far in Spoiler season at this point, so it’s hard to say exactly how much a given card will shake things up. That said, it’s important to start to parse information as it comes simply because of how much more difficult it is to try to process everything at once. I can’t say to a certainty whether Dragon’s Maze will be an exciting set or not, but I will say that I’m excited for PT Dragon’s Maze. While I myself did not Q, Matt Tickal and Troy Thompson of Minnesota both received special invites and I wish them the very best of luck on their first Pro Tour!
Thanks for reading,
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